Words of Faith 11-7-17
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2017
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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2 Corinthians 8
And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches.  Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.  For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own,  they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.  And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will.
It was time for Paul to talk about money. It's popular these days to offer a type of religion that has no "giving" associated with it, but Paul knew that was not authentic or biblical. While Paul was quite aware of the sort of abuses that can go on in religious appeals for money, he was also clear that generosity is a central part of following Christ. So Paul now turned to the subject of gracious giving.
Giving was no abstract topic in this case. Paul was concerned about the collection for the poor in Jerusalem which he had been organizing for several years. The Corinthians, hearing about "the collection," asked Paul what part they might have in it. Paul instructed them concerning these arrangements. Good intentions had not been translated into fruition, however, so Paul asked Titus to look into the matter.
No one knows what interrupted the Corinthians' good intentions toward giving. One likely possibility was the presence of the false apostles who received support from believers and may have diverted to themselves monies intended for that collection. The same sort of thing can happen today when money intended for ministry through God's church is diverted to other causes.
When Titus arrived he had found the Corinthians in need of an encouraging word which Paul delivered in chapters 8-9 of this letter. This in conjunction with Titus' work and that of unnamed assistants, climaxed by Paul's visit in Acts 20:3 brought the collection in Corinth to a successful conclusion.
So how could Paul address the collection situation? Whenever possible, Paul preferred to motivate and instruct by deed as well as by words. He did not hesitate to urge the Corinthians and others to imitate his manner of life. But he was also quick to point to other worthy examples, including Timothy, Epaphroditus, and of course, Christ and God the Father. Paul gave the Corinthians two examples of generosity in gracious giving, the Macedonian churches and Christ Himself.
The Macedonian churches-- those in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea-- had initially experienced the grace of God in the person of Paul and his proclamation of the gospel during his second missionary journey. In Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea, the apostle preached the gospel and founded churches. The believers in these places suffered because of their faith, but they remained steadfast. They even contributed at that early juncture to Paul's material support.
While their material welfare apparently deteriorated, their spiritual well-being increased commensurately. Paul attributed this to the grace of God, His unmerited favor. They had ample reason to be sorrowful, but they rejoiced. Though in extreme poverty, they could make others rich. Though they had nothing, they possessed everything that really matters.
Like Paul, the Macedonian churches had learned that God's grace is sufficient to take their weaknesses and through them to display God's power.
The Macedonians were eager channels of God's blessing because they lived in accordance with His will. Their actions revealed their love and devotion to God and others. Entirely on their own initiative the Macedonians became involved in the collection. Paul, perhaps thinking they too were suitable candidates for aid, hesitated to approach them about the need in Jerusalem. However, like the poor widow Jesus commended, they were undeterred by their own penury and gave selflessly, trusting God to meet their needs. One could wish that today more churches were like the Macedonians who pleaded for the privilege of sharing.
Here is the question for each of us: Has God taught you the joy of gracious giving? It is a wonderful thing to discover that our God will indeed supply all our needs according to His riches in glory. This was the truth that the Macedonians learned. Have you learned the joy of giving? The wonder of seeing God supply the needs of another through you as you trust by faith, and then to see God supply your needs in delightful abundance? This is the joy of gracious giving that was born in Macedonia.
Father, teach me the joy of gracious giving. Teach me how to trust You to let go of what I have so that I might see the wonder of Your provision for others and for me. In Jesus' Name.